[KB] Unanticipated Consequences

Gregory Desilet info at gregorydesilet.com
Mon Nov 30 14:17:09 EST 2009

Bob--I'm with you on the conclusion that Burke's privileging of "yes vs. no" in the Rhetoric of Religion is a mistaken privileging. I too prefer the "yes vs. yes" orientation (another name for which is the metaphysics of inclusion--or, as you might say, an "agonistic" dualism as opposed to an exclusionary or zero-sum dualism). 

However, I would argue that not I but Burke himself privileges the "yes vs. no" orientation and attempts to stamp that interpretation across his entire career. It strikes me that most everything Burke published from approximately 1950 forward presents a rather sharp dualism of "yes" and "no" and the prominence of the moralistic (and sacrificial, exclusionary) negative as well as a sharp dualism between "fact" and "interpretation" at the level of rhetorical analysis (as in the essay "Fact, Inference, and Proof in the Analysis of Literary Symbolism"). The essays he added in later years to Permanence and Change (both the 1954 Appendix and the 1984 Afterward) and Attitudes Toward History seem to turn these works toward the later dramatistic logology. 

I know that in your 1996 book on Burke you conclude the last chapter by suggesting that in his last years Burke provides reason to believe that he may have been shifting back toward the "yes vs. yes" orientation (a return to the theme of his constitutional analysis and a more agonistic dualism grounded in an historical unfolding). But what you present in these last pages is, for me, more suggestive than entirely persuasive. I wonder if, in the years since your publication of that book, you have become more or less persuaded of this apparent turn or shift in Burke's late thinking. Or, as a third possibility, perhaps you feel about the same as you did in 1996. I'm just curious if you have had additional reflection on this over the past years or have encountered any new evidence to add to your conclusions. 

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